Warm-up: Reflecting on needs in students’ own communities, and the local leaders and organizations working to address those needs.
Introducing the Lesson: In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, this lesson plan focuses on To the Plate, a documentary by multimedia journalists Annick Laurent and Gopika Ajay that tells the story of two queer Asian women who have provided critical support amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Analyzing the Reporting: Students watch and analyze the trailer for To the Plate and respond to reflection and discussion questions.
- Research and presentation on a Asian American or Pacific Islander leader
- Writing a letter advocating for change
Take a moment to think about how local organizations and leaders where you live are providing pandemic-related services and or resources.
On your own or with a partner, answer the following questions:
- What resources or services have increased in demand due to the pandemic in your community?
- How have grassroots organizations or leaders responded to these pandemic-related needs?
- How can grassroots organizations and/or leaders meet community needs and provide essential services during the current pandemic?
- What communities and/or groups of people have been hardest hit by the pandemic? (Consider what communities historically have had the least access to social services like medical care, for instance.)
Introducing the Lesson:
The coronavirus pandemic has shown just how important grassroots community-based organizations and leaders are in delivering critical services and programs to communities, especially marginalized communities. Whether they focus on providing assistance to unhoused, disabled, refugee, incarcerated, or undocumented folks, among so many other groups, grassroots organizations have a first-hand understanding of the needs and challenges in their communities. Consequently, they have been able to provide essential services and programs quickly to folks who are often the hardest to reach. In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, this lesson explores the story of two queer Asian women who have provided critical support amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These women were featured in a documentary called To the Plate.
After watching the trailer for To the Plate by multimedia journalists Annick Laurent and Gopika Ajay, students will research and celebrate local community organizations and Asian and Pacific Islander leaders building a better world in their own backyard.
Some useful vocabulary for this lesson:
- Grassroots (organization)
- Mutual aid
Introducing the Reporting:
To the Plate is a short documentary about Moonlynn Tsai and Yin Chang, two Asian American women who started a grassroots initiative called Heart of Dinner to support Asian elders struggling with food insecurity and being targeted for hate-motivated harassment and violence in the New York City area. They started small, but gradually grew into a network of restaurants and local volunteers who cooked, prepared, and delivered meals and care packages to Asian elders every week. Since April 2020, they've delivered thousands of meals and care packages to New York’s elderly Asian folks. Attached to each paper bag is a letter saying, "We are thinking of you and we love you," written in Chinese.
Analyzing the Reporting:
Watch the trailer for To the Plate, then respond to the reflection and discussion questions.
Reflection and Discussion:
Use details from the trailer and your own reflections and experiences to respond to the following questions. These questions can be explored as part of whole-class discussions, small-group discussions, or individual reflections.
- What moments, phrases, or images from the video stood out to you? Why?
- What are the challenges and needs that Moonlynn Tsai and Yin Chang are addressing through Heart of Dinner, and how have they sprung into action?
- Why is it important for Asian folks in need of assistance to be able to seek help from fellow Asian individuals and local organizations? (Consider shared language, cultural ties, trust, etc.)
- Why are grassroots organizations and local community leaders important in moments of crisis? In what ways are they uniquely positioned to help folks in their communities?
- Why do you think it's important to highlight stories about Asian leaders and grassroots organizations?
- What is the value in grassroots, mutual aid, local support and/or action in tackling community needs, especially in historically marginalized communities?
- Does anything from the trailer feel relevant to other stories you have seen in the news or in your own community? How could this story you learned about today inform your thinking and/or action?
1. Research and Presentation on an Asian or Pacific Islander Community Leader: Who is the Asian or Pacific Islander leader, changemaker, or activist in your community? Do some research and identify a person or organization doing important work in your city, state, or country. If possible, reach out and interview this individual or a representative of the organization. Put together a presentation to share with the class. Address the following questions in your presentation:
- Why are they considered a community leader?
- What is their mission?
- What issues, solutions, actions, or policies do they champion or support?
- How might we support their work in our everyday lives?
2. Artivism: Art can be used as an instrument to inspire social and political change. Activism is a term that describes the intersection of activism and art. With this in mind, create a piece of art that calls attention to an issue affecting your community. You can draw, paint, write a poem, choreograph a dance, or use photography to inspire change. Be creative and have fun. Consider sharing your work on social media or display it at school to inspire local action.
3. Write a Letter Advocating for Change: What issues are affecting Asian and Pacific Islander communities right now? Do some brainstorming and research, and then write a letter to a local representative calling for action on an issue of your choice. In your letter, express your concern about the issue you are calling attention to. You can mail or email a letter to most elected representatives. Consider writing to a local, state, or national representative. In addition to sending letters to their chosen representatives, students writing can also enter their letters into the Pulitzer Center's annual writing contest, Local Letters for Global Change, for the chance to win prizes and publication.
Common Core Standards:
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.